Barton Goldsmith: Life Appreciation

By Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Therapist Barton Goldsmith shares his experiences putting himself on a 30 day “Life Appreciation Course.” The idea here is that if you can appreciate your life, it actually changes the way you feel about it.

Tribune News Service

Do you tend to get distracted by world events that are out of your control? Do you ruminate about parts of your own past that you wish you could undo? Do you feel that you aren’t taking in as much of the joy around you as you could?

I recently caught myself feeling this way, and based on a suggestion by John Horton, M.D., coauthor of “The Inner Game of Stress,” I put myself on a thirty-day life-appreciation course.

The first assignment of the morning is to crawl into my hoodie and go outside where my only task is to appreciate my life.

I start by taking in the beauty around me. The first few days I was mostly in my head. I was able to appreciate my surroundings, but it was an intellectual appreciation, not an emotional one. But I only realized this after the first several days, when my morning exercise became something I found myself looking forward to, and I’m not a morning person.

After the first week, it was more uncomfortable to lie in bed and think about things than it was to get up and appreciate my life. I hate it when that happens! Truly, I took to this little life changer like the ducks take to the lake I get to look at every morning. It’s not that I haven’t appreciated the lake all along, I just never did it consciously. And that’s made all the difference.

If you wake up with any anxiety or depression, or if you just don’t look forward to your day (after getting proper sleep), then you need to try this exercise. It’s an inner workout that you can do with a cup of coffee in your hand and Uggs on your feet (something else to appreciate). It may not change your life, but it will adjust your attitude, and that’s pretty helpful in this crazy world.

I have always believed in ending the day on a positive note by writing a word or two in a gratitude journal and saying something sweet to my wife about the day we shared. Now I have a new morning habit, and it hasn’t changed our routine one bit, but it has changed the way I look at my world. Perhaps that’s because I still make the morning coffee and simply work it into my daily ritual.

Creating a new habit isn’t about perfection. It’s about getting what you want by creating a change in your behavior and thinking. So now, while the coffee is brewing, I am appreciating. It’s quick, fulfilling, and a much better way to start my day than looking at my phone or computer. And when I do the latter, my attitude is better, because I have already begun my morning on a positive note rather than a problematic one.

The idea here is that if you can appreciate your life, it actually changes the way you feel about it. Appreciation will give you more energy to live the way you would like to live instead of just getting through the days. As a means of mood modification, it is highly underrated. It simply makes your life better.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”)

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